Understanding conservatorships and potential alternatives to them

In California, a conservatorship is generally used for people who have elderly or disabled loved ones who are incapable of effectively overseeing their own affairs. These individuals might have had lifelong issues or have suddenly experienced a decline in their capacity to address their finances, personal care or both. Regardless, when legal protections are needed, it is imperative to understand conservatorships and how they can be helpful. Part of that is knowing how the circumstances factor in with the case. In some instances, a conservatorship is not the way to go.

Alternatives to explore in lieu of conservatorships

As useful as conservatorships can be for the conservator to protect the person or the person’s estate, it is wise to assess the situation beforehand and know what alternatives might be preferable. The court plays a foundational role in deciding if the conservatorship will be approved.

The conservatorship might not even be necessary if the person who needs assistance is able to take part in the plan; is still aware enough to agree to a power of attorney; has income that is based solely on Social Security or welfare with the Social Security Administration appointing the would-be conservator as the Representative Payee; or is married or involved in a domestic partnership in which the spouse can handle the finances.

The following are some alternatives to consider regarding personal care: an advance health care directive; the court authorizing medical treatment; a personal care arrangement; and restraining orders. For finances, there can be: a power of attorney; a substitute payee; a personal arrangement between the parties; financial accounts that are held jointly; or a living trust.

Legal advice may be needed for conservatorships and possible options

With conservatorships or any other part of estate planning, the fundamental key is to make sure the document is legally sound and protects the interests of the person being cared for. It may take experienced legal assistance to determine the wisest option to suit the person’s needs. Consulting with a legal firm that is well-versed in estate planning and conservatorships may be essential. This is the first step toward a comprehensive plan.